Bulawayo: Andy Flower hit back at critics who said he was under-performing for Zimbabwe in the World Cup by scoring a superb half-century against Australia on Monday. The left-hander made 62 and Andy Blignaut smashed a quickfire 54 off 28 balls as Zimbabwe scored a competitive 246 for nine from 50 overs after electing to bat at the Queens sports Club.
An unnamed official of the Zimbabwe Cricket Union (ZCU) reportedly said before the match that Flower was more concerned about protesting against President Robert Mugabe's government than scoring runs. Flower and team-mate Henry Olonga wore black armbands, later changed to black wristbands, in the first two matches to lodge their protest against what they said were deteriorating human rights conditions in the country.
The ZCU summoned both players for separate hearings on Saturday, warning them that further protests could cost them a place in the squad. Olonga was once again relegated to the reserves, like in the previous match against India, but Flower retained his place as the most experienced batsman in the team. Andy and brother Grant Flower put on 84 for the third wicket after a double strike from Jason Gillespie reduced Zimbabwe 28 for two.
Grant was run out after a misunderstanding with Andy, who was himself bowled by a ball that kept low from left- arm spinner Brad Hogg. Hogg ensured Australia did not miss the banned Shane Warne as he claimed the wickets of Dion Ebrahim and Douglas Marillier to finish with three for 46 from eight overs. Left-handed Blignaut plundered eight boundaries and two sixes before falling to a brilliant return catch by Brett Lee.
"I mistimed a few but overall I am very happy with the way I played," Blignaut said. "The wicket here is very slow so I think 246 is a very competitive total." Australia has won all its three matches so far. Zimbabwe has two wins from three games, including the one forfeited by England in Harare on February 13 due to moral and security concerns. Copyright AFP 2001